First I'm going to state straight up that I am not nor ever was a gladiator, so I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. I loved world pvp, but really didn't like arena. I would just go high enough to get the top tier gear (around the time I quit that was about 2200) and then stop for the season due to frustration.
I'm writing this because I just happened to glance at what was going on recently with wow, and noticed some pretty bad pvp nerfs in an upcoming patch, and it just reminded me of basically the agony you go through when that happens Which is one (small) reason I quit; I was getting tired of a game where new versions would very often times make your gameplay experience worse - no "fun" game should be that way. I can see occasional small nerf or mechanic change that will disappoint you, but some of them were just outright brutal. Anybody remember beastcoil? Granted it didn't ever go live, but worse nerfs have, and ones like that just go to show you how little thought they can put into big changes.
The problem with wow PvP is that blizzard is trying to mold the game into something that it fundamentally is not and never will be (not saying they shouldn't try - there is a place for it in wow.) The game from the ground up is simply NOT built for structured PvP. End of story. If GC himself read this he would probably agree (though he and I would disagree on whether or not it can truly be made that way.) When they originally designed this game, it is pretty clear that PvP balance wasn't really a concern, and it really didn't need to be anyways because unstructured pvp is all there was, and many people were fine with that (NOT to say that it shouldn't have changed though!)
I didn't start playing the game until around early 2008 and quit around early 20011. By this time, season three had just begun right as I hit level 70. It became clear to me pretty quickly though that you had to pick the right class/spec when you started doing endgame PVP content, or else you could just end up having a shit time compared to everybody else. Case in point: fury warrior or feral druid throughout all of TBC, which were basically the punchline of every joke. This is a really bad game design, and just looking at the patch notes I can clearly tell that over the two years I've been gone, this is still how it is (only with different specs - unholy comes to mind) and probably will be until the developers realize that they can't actually do what they're trying to do.
The irony is, it doesn't have to be this way. The mistake the wow devs are making is that they are trying to put a focus on structured PVP for a game with ability mechanics that just won't work that way. I don't know if this is still blizzards philosophy, but for example they said the tank specs would never see any high tier pvp viability. For structured pvp, that completely makes sense: Those specs just weren't made for that. But neither were a bunch of other specs that are trying to do exactly that. This is exactly why we end up with FOTM builds/comps, even in what now seems to be an era of drastically simplified talent trees which were meant to avoid the problem I am talking about now, and have clearly failed in that purpose. Has anybody ever wondered why the devs always say they'll fix things, then big nerfs come that are supposed to make things better, but everybody is still disappointed anyways?
Solutions to problems like these are never simple, but I have an idea for a very good start. First I'll explain the main reason I left, and it wasn't actually due to a big patch, but due to a very annoying hotfix that was my "kick in the nuts" or "slap in the face" as some nerfs are referred to, and made the game as I preferred to play it no longer practical. As I said earlier, I prefer unstructured PvP. I WANT an unfair playing field; that's what makes the game fun, even when the odds are stacked against me. But it's not just me. People had fun fighting over southshore and tarren mill even though there was nothing fair about it. Remember when you tried to kill me twice? Oh how we laughed and laughed.
Seriously. World pvp was fun. Until blizzard just killed it one day. A hotfix came sometime in January 2011 which made all guards immune to CC and could hit you no matter where you were or what you did, and would root you in place so there's no escape. They already hit like a nuclear bomb so this was outright devastating to dedicated gankers because engaging in combat anywhere *near* a city was guaranteed death. World pvp was then basically limited to finding people at random, because the pvp hotspots were now useless (by the way, Tol Barad did a miserable job at replicating what Quel'Danas was for the world pvpers - it sounded fun on paper but ended up being not so.) Effectively, only a marginal difference between a pvp server and a normal server, all because blizzard felt that it is wrong that some people should have to suffer for being on a pvp server when they actually don't even like pvp.
This is fine to an extent. There should be a place of refuge, but the way they do it is all wrong. Instead of making it so that the guards gank you for retaliating, they should make it so that you can retaliate without retribution so long as you didn't start the fight. Have the guards give the victim the upper hand, but not instant death to the predator.
Without further ado, let's get to the meat of the solution: Give PvP rewards for unstructured PvP. Make structured pvp available, but not required like it currently is. Grinding battlegrounds for gear makes you not want to play any more battlegrounds (you know something is wrong when people would rather bot instead of actually playing the game - imagine that, and to think they put things into place so that raiding doesn't feel grindy, yet arenas and battlegrounds feel very grindy) so you grow to hate rated battlegrounds. That just leaves arena, which as we all know is only truly fair for those who are willing to play a class/spec that they don't necessarily want to play the most, rather that gives them the best ability to win. This leaves the game available for people who just want to play in league style competitions (not me), so frustrate the hell out of everybody else, if not just screw them over entirely.
Now I'm not saying to eliminate arenas. For an RPG this should be JUST FINE. You give up the ability to heal well when you play a DPS class. Likewise when you play a class that works well with unstructured PvP, let that be your game. Sure you lose the bragging rights of being a gladiator, but you gain the bragging rights of being an infamous ganker (which I loved - the alliance had a name for me in stormwind as I would regularly terrorize the flagged players on weekends and almost always got away with it without dying.) Granted that is something only a few classes can do, other classes can do other things - I remember there was this warlock on our server who would hang out in the quest area with these bird men that would cast shadowbolt, and he used the quest item that made him look like them. It was hard to kill him because of the way he positioned himself in the trees, and you didn't always spot him right away because the red name text was covered by the leaves. Then there was this mage who would hang out in org and get into a spot that was hard for other classes to reach, and he would use his crashin thrashin racer to trick other players into getting pvp flagged near him, and then he would nuke them to death. I could kill him if I wanted to (him and I would counter each other hard in our respective faction cities,) but I got a kick out of watching it happen so I just let it go. Both myself and the alliance would get a kick out of reading the qq in trade chat (them in stormwind, and me in orgrimmar) when this happened. Unlike arena/bg, world pvp is personal. THIS was fun, and made the game worth playing.
Unlike classic wow of yore, I'm sure there's a way of rewarding unstructured PvP without a massive grind fest. I know this because all of the world pvpers with a name were well known on their respective servers. We would even hang out on vent together. My arch nemesis was a prot warrior, and he and I were good friends when we would hang out on vent. Imagine that - a spec blizzard says has no place in PvP actually finds a VERY good niche where it does VERY well, only they (seemingly arbitrarily) say this niche doesn't count for anything. Why shouldn't it? If there are players who establish a name for themselves, I'm sure there is potentially some sort of heuristic or mathematical solution to being able to reward them properly - if other players can recognize them, I'm sure the game could too. We're paying blizzard $15 a month to figure these kinds of things out, but instead they stick arena in our faces. Maybe do something along the lines of also rewarding people who are a good sport. I was always nice to my victims (well, other than killing them) and when I died I was a hate the game not the player kind of person. I had more friends among the enemy faction than my own faction just because I got to interact with them in a way that we mutually enjoyed more than two people on the same faction questing together. This kind of thing SHOULD BE REWARDED, as opposed to being one shot by a guard.
Again, structured pvp is FINE. But if you're the type of person who just wants to play only one class and spec, structured pvp typically DOES NOT WORK, and it never will because you can find yourself in a position where you have no real niche for any comp anywhere, and your teammates get frustrated by that because if they merely replaced you with "x" they could progress much easier because that other person could provide "y" mechanic that is critical for doing well (mortal strike comes to mind from Wrath days.) All it does is piss you and your teammates off in the end.
Worse is even if you aren't doing so well, you can get nerfed anyways (ends up with posts on the forums of "this class didn't really need a nerf" but blizzard says the mechanic caused problems in some way.) Don't try to eliminate FOTM syndrome when you never will be able to do so. FOTM rollers will always be there, and they are welcome to enjoy the game as much as anybody else, but let them stick to their preferred niche. Like PvE vs PvP servers, let people pick their battles, and there will be far less forum "but but ghostcrawler..." qq. Sure fix blatant problems that have limited use anyways (paladin bubble heal followed by LoH comes to mind - being able to have three health bars every 10 minutes was a bit absurd) but core class mechanics and abilities shouldn't be broken at will. I just read the patch notes and saw a nerf that turns a long time major class asset into a liability for arena teams - wow (wouldn't hurt unstructured play though.) Reminds me of why I shouldn't return to this game any time soon.
Anyways, thanks for reading my long rant if you did. Wow had many fun elements, and I'd return if they became interesting again, but blizzards attempts at carving wow into a pvp game that it simply is not nor ever will be ruined it for me, and I think it probably did the same to others as well. Spread the message if you agree, maybe it'll get somebody's attention.